China Wrong Side of the Road Bicycle Lane Defaults

There's an initially surprising convention for when you ride your bicycle on the wrong side of the road in China.


Because China has so many wide roads, it's not unusual for bicyclists to ride on the wrong side of the road. If you're only going a block, it's definitely not worth it to cross a major ring road or highway.

The Rule

If bicyclists are riding on an unprotected road surface with cars (the shoulder of the road), the person riding against traffic should be closest to the edge of the road. The people doing the right thing, riding with traffic, should go closer to the road. This is a little bit unfair, but it does make sense, because it reduces the average velocity difference between adjacent lanes of traffic.


There's a major exception: when the bicyclist area is protected, by a grill, or is a separate lane, the protected bike road is considered to be independent, and everyone should ride on their right. This is pretty well observed, too.


Most people do this. The main group not doing is are people from age 40-60 - they ignore whether the road is protected or not, and just always ride as far away as possible from the nearest car lane.


If you are following someone who's doing it wrong, you can't force people passing you to immediately adjust - in that case, you have to continue the wrong pattern until you pass them.


This works well, and most people know it (the main exception being middle-aged women, who ride wherever they want). However, the problem occurs when the protection on a bike area ends - everyone has to switch sides with oncoming bike traffic. This is usually handled by slowing down, or just continuing on behind the one in front of you until things clear out.

Never Forget

The first rule of safe riding in China is to stay behind someone else, for shielding. So if you happen to be behind someone breaking the above rules, and can't pass them, just follow them anyway.